Schubert’s late A major piano sonata
In all seriousness, is there another composer who wrote as many and consistently lovely melodies as Franz Schubert? It is unfathomable. Really. To take a single note, and then some specific moment in time later offer another, and another and have those strings of tones turn out to be gloriously beautiful melodies that capture the hearts of millions, generation after generation is extraordinarily rare. To have created so many beautiful melodies in his short 32 years is a complete mystery.
When we think of classical music, we are mostly talking about maybe ten really great composers, and a couple dozen more second tier composers. What we ignore is the literally thousands of long since forgotten composers, maybe quite capable in the art of composition, but just couldn’t string notes together into melodies that captivated and endured. Not to mention the long list of already forgotten twentieth century composers who thought that that specific ability was both undesirable and unnecessary. Aha, now I understand! The sheer impossibility of it all meant, composers needed to come up with a way of bypassing the need to first of all have to create captivating or at least catchy melodies. No mystery how that turned out. This possibly may explain why pop music exploded to the extent that it did. The general public got tired of waiting for the presumed stewards of fine music to produce something worth listening to, and have ever since, resisted returning.
Anyway, The main theme from the last movement of his late A major piano sonata is one such melody. I melted into my chair the first time I heard that movement and on a pensive day would place this melody into my list of top five favorite melodies of all time.
This melody was much easier to get comfortable with for improvising and it became a favorite to work with when my mood turned inward.
The recording I most often turn to, which is also the first I heard is a recording by Claudio Arrau. If you have the time, listen from start to finish in one sitting, the whole sonata is fantastic, the second movement is in and of itself a masterpiece, and the final movement, from which this melody comes will make the most sense if you hear the whole thing in entirety. It creates the right setting to delve into the serenity and gentle ebullience of that final movement. Be warned, that requires a good 35 minutes of calm attention.
If you are going crazy wondering where you have heard this melody before, it was used as the opening theme song for the old sitcom ‘Wings’.
Starts at 33:46